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A Marriage of Food & Wine - Planning Guide For Your Wedding Wine

Written By Linda Weaver; Mount Nittany Vineyard & Winery

Choosing the wine for your special day is an important detail. You taste and choose the wedding food and cake ahead of time, so why not taste and choose the wine in advance, too? In addition to sampling the wine ahead of time, there are many other things to consider when choosing the wine for your wedding reception.

Selecting Your Wine

If you are obliged to buy wine from your caterer/wedding venue, then they may be able to assist you in selecting wines appropriate to go with your menu, whether it be appetizers or a meal. If you are able to bring the wine yourself, you have a lot of choices. You may already have a favorite wine or two you would like to serve at the wedding. Your choices can make your special day all the more enchanting and allow you to personalize your wedding by sharing your favorite wines with your guests.

Basic Rule of Thumb for Wine and Food Pairing

Most food and wine experts believe that the most basic element of food and wine pairing is understanding the balance between the "weight" of the food and the weight (or body) of the wine. In matching the body of the wine with that of the food, you should pair a delicate dish with a light white (Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc). On the other hand, a hearty dish will be enhanced by a full-bodied red (Cabernet Sauvignon) or full-bodied white (Oaky Chardonnay). The time-honored adage of "White wine with fish; red wine with meat” has become somewhat outdated due to the variety of wine styles prevalent in modern winemaking, but is still useful as a starting point.

Consider the Particulars of Your Wedding

• You and Your Guests - What kind of wine do you like? How about your friends and family? Would your guests enjoy one or two really nice glasses of wine to sip as they socialize? Or, is wine not that important to your guests?

• Time of Year - Is your reception scheduled for the middle of summer or the dead of winter? The season could make a difference in what wine you decide to serve your guests–are you trying to warm them up or cool them off? If you are hosting an outdoor reception and the weather is expected to be warm, plan accordingly and serve a refreshing, lighter wine like a Pinot Gris or Sauvignon Blanc. Winter is a good time to consider a Cabernet, Merlot, or Shiraz.

• Time of Day - Are you having a day or evening wedding? People may drink a little less at an afternoon wedding than at an evening affair.

• Your Budget – If you have the option to bring your own, determine whether it makes more sense to order off the wine list at your wedding venue or pay the corkage fee, which can be between $5 and $25 a bottle. The fee covers staff service to open and pour the wines, and makes up for some of the income lost since you didn't buy the wine from them. There may be room for negotiation on corkage; it never hurts to ask. Remember that it's standard practice for hotels and restaurants to mark up the price of their wines to two or three times the wholesale price. Also, check ahead to see whether the wedding venue charges a service fee on top of the corkage.

Best to Have a Couple Choices - Red, White (or Rose . . )

Although sparkling wine is a wedding fixture (for the toast especially) consider serving one red and one white wine if the reception includes a meal or hors d'oeuvres. Professional wedding planners advise serving equal amounts of red and white wine. For those who want to pour just one wine with the meal, there is a happy compromise - dry rosé, a wine that's refreshing and also substantial enough to drink with sturdy foods.

Some White Wine Top Picks

As far as you choice of white wine goes, look to Sauvignon Blanc, a versatile white that goes well with seafood, chicken, eggs, vegetables, and salads. Or select the crowd-pleasing, easy-to-drink Pinot Gris. An unoaked or lightly oaked Chardonnays would be great to sip alone and be a better match with a wider range of dishes than the toasty, buttery type of Chardonnay.

Some Red Wine Top Picks

Cabernet Sauvignon is the most popular red wine in America, and it's best suited to serving with hearty beef and lamb dishes. Merlot is a lighter style and very versatile, as is the earthy Pinot Noir, both of which pair well with light red meats, pork, and poultry.

The Middle Ground – Rose

Dry rosé is crisp and fruity and does not have the sweetness of white Zinfandel and other blush wines. It pairs beautifully with salads, poultry, pork, tuna, salmon, and even sirloin. Rosé also hits the spot in both warm and cool weather, day and night.

How Much to Buy

• It's better to have too much wine than not enough. Guests complain when the wine runs out and they still have prime rib on their plate, or if they have an empty glass for the toast.

•The standard 750-ml wine bottle holds 25 ounces; count on five servings of wine, at five ounces each, from one bottle. For sparkling wines served in flutes, allow for four ounces per serving (plus foam), which equals six servings per bottle.

• Most caterers count on each guest consuming one-half bottle of wine—roughly two glasses—every two hours. If the party lasts four hours, count on one 25-ounce bottle per person. These calculations allow for the fact that some folks will drink more, some less, and some not at all. One bottle each might seem like a lot of wine, but consider that your guest may want to sample everything, even though they don't drain their glasses. Most retailers will take back unopened bottles of the wines they sell to you as long as the labels and cork area haven't been damaged or stained.

Last but not Least - the Wedding Cake

If champagne will be served with the wedding cake—perhaps during the toast—pour one that has a sweetness that can stand up to the cake or whatever other dessert is served. Most sparkling wines are labeled "brut," meaning they're quite dry and contain less than 1.5 percent sugar. That dryness will make the wine taste metallic and bitter with sweet desserts. Look for a "demi-sec" bubbly, with 3.3 to 5 percent sugar because it has the sweetness that will complement the cake.

If you are a wine lover and are hoping to incorporate your passion for the vine into your big day there are plenty of unique and creative options to do just that! One such option would be to order wine with custom labels from a local winery. At Mount Nittany Vineyard & Winery we offer custom wine labels to commemorate your occasion, as well as wine and food pairing advice and free tasting.

Mount Nittany Vineyard & Winery

300 Houser St Centre Hall, PA 16828

Contact: Sandy Alexander

(814) 466-6373

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